woman being surrounded by a colon

My Introduction to Ulcerative Colitis

Last updated: November 2022

Ulcerative colitis: a name not quite as catchy as Crohn's disease but one that leaves little room for ambiguity. For something so currently ingrained into my everyday being, the disease failed to register a blip on my radar for 2 decades.

I first heard about Crohn's disease in middle school when a classmate, newly diagnosed promptly unenrolled from school due to complications from his disease.

From that single experience, I viewed Crohn's disease as a terrible, unwelcome guest that intrudes upon and ruins a normal life. Ulcerative colitis remained a mystery to me until my diagnosis much later.

The early signs of ulcerative colitis

However, in college, I chose to ignore signs of the disease knocking on my door. The first time I saw blood in my stool, I panicked. Then, the blood went away, and I did nothing. This continued periodically throughout college. In my last year, my body finally had a breaking point.

The uncomfortable and all too familiar gastrointestinal bleeding came again, but this time, it never went away. I went to the emergency department and had a CT scan. Here, a gastroenterologist introduced me to ulcerative colitis.

Life paused with a UC diagnosis

Although I only received a preliminary diagnosis, my life felt at a standstill. My friends went to classes and enjoyed their last year of college. I, on the other hand, sat close to a toilet while clutching a bottle of Gatorade. After sigmoidoscopy results returned, I visited my gastroenterologist and hoped for a return to normalcy.

To my dismay, he disclosed to me a confirmation of a positive ulcerative colitis diagnosis. "God just made you a little different," he said. I felt vastly different from even a few weeks ago. Spending $200 on medications and self-administering daily enemas made me shudder at the trajectory of my life. I associated my health abnormalities with a sense of finality. The beginning of the end.

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My life post-diagnosis signified an end to many things that I once considered commonplace. I stopped frequenting coffee shops and hesitated going out to eat with friends. College morphed into a survive and advance scenario.

Learning more about ulcerative colitis

Directionless after school finished, I decided to work with pottery, an activity that always brought me joy, and became an assistant at a pottery studio. A lack of pressure from school freed my mind to discover more about ulcerative colitis. Elimination diets taught me that caffeine serves as the main culprit for triggering my flares.

During a flare, I learned to avoid high-fiber foods. With time and reflection, I grew more confident in understanding my disease. The anxiety and dread that pervaded my thoughts faded. Things may never return to normal, but my temperament towards ulcerative colitis grows more serene with each passing day.

Patience and understanding alleviate an abundance of burdens in managing a chronic illness. Meeting ulcerative colitis with negativity hindered my ability to listen and care for my body. I look back on my diagnosis with a few regrets. More importantly, I remember with gratitude the process I experienced to see ulcerative colitis in a more positive light.

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